Pleather Fashion Term - Terms of Interest to the Fashion Industry

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According to Wikipedia, pleather is an artificial leather, a fabric or finish that is intended to substitute leather in both fashion and home décor, or in other instances where a leather-like finish is required, but the actual material is cost-prohibitive or unsuitable.

Under the name of artificial leather (not to be confused with the more modern term “Pleather,” defined below) or American leather cloth, large quantities of a material having a more or less leather-like surface were once used, principally for upholstery purposes, such as the covering of chairs, lining the tops of writing desks and tables, and beyond.

Artificial leather is marketed under many brand names, including pleather, leatherette, faux leather, and Naugahyde.

The term pleather (“plastic leather”) is a slang term for synthetic leather made of plastic. The term was coined by Amy Bach, when working in New York for Millis clothing. Upon the arrival of a new line, a plastic leather, Amy needed a way to advertise the product to customers without calling it plastic. She came up with the term “pleather.” A portmanteau of plastic and leather, the term is sometimes used derogatorily, implying use as a substitute for genuine hide to cut costs. Besides cost, pleather may also be preferred because it is lighter than leather, or as an alternative to real leather citing reasons of animal cruelty.

Pleather, being made of plastic, will not decompose as quickly. Not all pleathers are the same. Polyurethane is washable, can be dry-cleaned and allows some air to flow through the garment while PVC pleather, in contrast, does not “breathe” and is difficult to clean. PVC cannot be dry-cleaned because the cleaning solvents can make the PVC unbearably stiff.

Vegan Leather is an artificial alternative to traditional leather. It may be chosen for ethical reasons or as a designed material which may have different properties, but offers a similar look to the natural material. There is also no difference between vegan leather and artificial leather alternatives, other than being marketed as “Certified Vegan Leather” to target niche consumers and increase company profit margins.

Vegan leathers include:

Vegetan: A microfibre material.

Lorica: Polyurethane and polyamide microfibre by Lorica Sud S.r.l..

Birko-Flor: (Birkenstock) Acrylic and polyamide felt fibres.

Birkibuc: (Birkenstock) Acrylic and polyamide felt fibres; looks and feels like     nubuck leather.

PVC: Polyvinyl chloride, (IUPAC Poly(chloroethanediyl)); a thermoplastic polymer.

Kydex: An acrylic-PVC alloy produced by Kleerdex.

Poromeric Imitation Leather

Sometimes referred to as poromerics, poromeric imitation leathers are a group of synthetic breathable leather substitutes that are made from a plastic coating (usually a polyurethane) on a fibrous base layer (typically a polyester). The term poromeric was coined by DuPont as a derivative of the terms microporous and polymeric. The first poromeric material was DuPont’s ill-fated Corfam, which was introduced in 1963 at the Chicago Shoe Show. Newer poromerics include Clarino made by Kuraray Co. of Japan.

Corfam was the centerpiece of the DuPont pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair in New York City. Its major advantages over natural leather were its durability and its high-gloss finish that could be easily cleaned with a damp cloth. Disadvantages included  stiffness, which did not loosen with wearing, its relative lack of breathability, and easy confusion with non-breathable cheaper products. DuPont manufactured Corfam at its plant in Old Hickory, Tennessee, from 1964 to 1971. After spending millions of dollars marketing the product to shoe manufacturers, DuPont withdrew Corfam from the market in 1971 and sold the rights to a company in Poland.

Corfam is still used today in some products, an example being certain types of equestrian saddle girth. Corfam shoes are still popular in uniformed professions where shiny shoes are desirable, including the United States Army, which uses Corfam shoes as its standard dress shoe.


Koskin is an artificial leather material commonly found in computer laptop cases. It is commonly used in Hewlett-Packard, Targus and Belkin laptop cases, CD wallets, and other consumer goods. It is made to look and feel like authentic leather.

In Swedish, “koskinn” means cow’s skin (ko means cow, skinn means skin), causing much confusion for consumers.


Leatherette is a form of artificial leather, usually made by covering a fabric base with plastic. The fabric can be made of a natural or a synthetic fibre, which is then covered with a soft PVC layer. Leatherette bound books and 20th century cameras are good examples of leatherette. Leatherette clothing of various kinds (including lingerie) also exist.

A disadvantage of plastic leatherette is that it is not porous and does not allow air to pass through it; thus, sweat can accumulate if it is used for clothing, car seat coverings, and more. One of its primary advantages, especially in cars, is that it requires little maintenance in comparison to leather, and does not crack or fade as easily. During a fire, leatherette may cause serious skin damage, because it burns more vigorously than leather and can melt.

Written for Apparel Search by Regina Cooper February 2011.

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